Airtable creates a new table when a record appears more than once in the same field


#1

I use Airtable to track class enrollments. When I create a new table, I copy the previous session’s table (Session1) and immediately rename it (Session2). But almost immediately Airtable turns Session2 into two tables, both named “Session1 copy.” As far as I can tell, it does this when a student’s record appears in more than one class. How can I enable Airtable to recognize a record in multiple instances of the same field without unnaming the table and splitting it in two?


#2

I’m not sure that you can.

I can’t fully picture what you are doing with your setup there, but it sounds a lot like you are using Airtable as a spreadsheet rather than a database, which is what’s causing the unexpected behavior.

Rather than making a new table for each session (and treating that table like a spreadsheet), I’d suggest trying to make a single table for “Sessions” where each record represents a “Session” (so you are making a new row for each session, rather than a new table for each session).

Then create another table that joins students to sessions (I’m not sure what you’d want to call this - I imagine you are doing something with grading, so perhaps call it Session-Grades or some-such). This table will have a field that links to Students and a field that links to Sessions. Each Student will get a record in this table for every Session they participate in. And then you can create “Views” to filter by Session, or group by Session, or what have you.

That’s just my two-cents. I think if you used Airtable more as a database than as a spreadsheet, it would solve your problem.


#3

Hey Jeremy,

Thanks for your thoughtful reply. I don’t quite understand what you mean by using Airtable as a spreadsheet instead of a database. I have a lot of different types of information and I need to see different relationships between them, so to me that sounds like a database, but I will admit that I’m using this terminology pretty generally.

It occurs to me that maybe you thought I’m a teacher looking at one class at a time, but I run a school and administer about 15 classes per session. The problem I described seems to happen when a student enrolls in more than one class, or (in Airtable terms) when a record is associated with more than one other record at a time. The way I do it, the individual classes are the default field. That may be contributing to the problem, but it’s the way that makes the most sense given the information I need.)

I think I understand the example you were using, but in my case I’m not entering grades, I just need to be able to put a student in more than one class at a time without Airtable splitting the table in two and unnaming it.

Thanks again for taking the time to respond.


#4

Thanks for your thoughtful reply. I don’t quite understand what you mean by using Airtable as a spreadsheet instead of a database. I have a lot of different types of information and I need to see different relationships between them, so to me that sounds like a database, but I will admit that I’m using this terminology pretty generally.

It occurs to me that maybe you thought I’m a teacher looking at one class at a time, but I run a school and administer about 15 classes per session. The problem I described seems to happen when a student enrolls in more than one class, or (in Airtable terms) when a record is associated with more than one other record at a time. The way I do it, the individual classes are the default field. That may be contributing to the problem, but it’s the way that makes the most sense given the information I need. (More specifically: when a student is in two classes, Airtable seems to create a new hybrid class, and a new table to enter it on.)

I think I understand the example you were using, but in my case I’m not entering grades, I just need to be able to put a student in more than one class at a time without Airtable splitting the table in two and unnaming it.


#5

One thing I just appended to my answer on the forum: when a student is enrolled in two classes, it looks like Airtable is creating a new hybrid class, which is workable, but also creating a new table to enter it on, which is less so.


#6

Hmm – ok. I still can’t quite visualize in my mind what your base might look like as a whole (I’m bad a converting descriptions into mental images).

What I meant by spreadsheet vs. database could be summed up by this:
In a database, whenever you have a thing or concept that will be repeated (ex. you will have many “Students”, you will have many “Classes”) that thing should have a single table in which all instances of that thing live (ex. one table for all “Students”, one table for all “Classes”). It sounds like you are doing tha for “Students” and “Classes”, but not for “Sessions”. Instead, with “Sessions”, you are using the spreadsheet mentality of making a new table (sheet) for each Session.

That’s really all I was getting at. Copying data that contains linked records may end up behaving in strange ways because you are not just copying data, but also relationships between the data.

I’m sure you get all that, I was just indicating that trying to arrange your “Sessions” as a database entity rather than as new sheets might solve the problem. It might also create new problems ¯\_(ツ)_/¯


#7

That makes sense. Thanks!